The Ultimate Guide ON HOW TO FIND THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LOCATIONS & HOW TO Elope In CALIFORNIA


Whether it’s an engagement session or an elopement adventure, California truly has some of the most stunning locations that will make your heart skip a beat when you get to see them in real life.

California has been ranked by the Times of San Diego as the most diverse state in the country, but not only is it diverse in its population, but it is also diverse in the types of landscapes it has to offer. From beaches to mountains, to cliffs, to deserts there is so much to see and do in California and the options for your elopement are endless!

*Important Information You Should Know: Although California has some of the most beautiful locations for your ideal elopement, many of the locations below are at least 2 two-hour drive from the nearest airport 🙂 What can we say, you gotta work for it. But trust us, it’ll be worth it 😘

Bride and groom sunset portraits at Big Sur elopement
Bride and groom couple portraits on the beach in Santa Cruz, California

How to Elope in California in 6 Steps: Everything You Need to Know to Plan for an Unforgettable Elopement Experience

1) Determine Whether an Elopement is the Right Decision for You

Anyone can elope but elopements are not for everyone. You don’t have to know exactly where, when, or how many guests you want to invite to your California elopement, but one thing you do want to make sure is: is eloping the right decision for you and your partner?

Read our article on 6 Things To Consider Before Eloping and explore some of the beautiful Elopement Stories on our blog to learn everything you need to know about eloping.

You don’t want to regret anything about the day you marry your partner for life.

2) Find The Right California Elopement Photographer & Book Your California Elopement Package

We guess this is the part where we are supposed to “sell” ourselves and this is also the part where our hearts are beating fast and our palms are sweaty. We really don’t enjoy talking about ourselves or trying to “sell” you anything you don’t need.

We do, however, love to share with you how we view and live our lives. Adventure elopements have been quite trendy lately but for us, it was never a trend. Henry and his husband Viet eloped when eloping meant one thing: running to the courthouse to get it done. And Sergio and his wife Pamela eloped because they wanted to have an intimate wedding day that was truly THEIRS!

We give 110% of ourselves to all our elopement couples because we were in their shoes not so long ago.

We understand the importance of intimacy and the value of intentional experience that couples seek when they elope because elopement is so, so, so much more than epic photos. It’s all about you and whom you love, together, all at once, experiencing one of the most important moments in life.

And last but certainly not least, we do believe that the right California elopement photographer needs to not only capture important moments you might have missed but also know how to prepare you for the best experience by assisting in location scouting, elopement planning, photography permits, and so much more.

3) Find The Best Location To Elope In California

After all, this is what this article is all about. Scroll down to read all about the beautiful landscapes California has to offer.

One of our absolute favorite things about California is that it has EVERYTHING: rugged beaches, dramatic coastline, wild deserts, snowy mountains, and moody forests. We could go on and on but you get the idea. 🙂

If you know that you want to elope in California for sure but don’t have an exact location in mind, it’s ok, feel free to reach out anytime. We do have way more beautiful locations in our little notebook that we’ve been waiting for the right couple to elope at.

4) Book Your Elopement Date

Though California has mild temperatures year-round, depending on the landscape you’re in love with, that may determine when you should elope.

For example, some mountain trails in Yosemite are closed beginning in November due to snow so you might need to be flexible when it comes to making sure we can get the optimal weather for the beautiful location you pick. Continue reading this article to learn more about California landscapes and weather elements.

Once you are ready for a complimentary consultation, please reach out. We can provide insights, tips and tricks, and all the necessary details for what would work best for your elopement plan.

Pro tip: Whether you consider us for your California elopement or any other photographer, the sooner you find and book a photographer, the better as some couples are booking anywhere between 6 – 18 months in advance.

5) California Elopement Planning: Wedding Permit, Marriage License, Elopement Checklist, and Everything Else

With a traditional wedding, your venue is your private event site. With elopements, we often use public lands like National Parks, National Forests, or State Parks, so there may be some sort of wedding permit required.

As adventure elopement photographers, oftentimes, we are the only resource for couples. Therefore, part of our service is to help you with navigating permits and licenses, as well as equipping you with Elopement Resources and Checklists.

For information on marriage licenses and the legality of officiants and witnesses, continue scrolling.

6) Elope & Celebrate Your Marriage YOUR WAY

We’ll adventure around the location you picked, take in the beauty of California, create memories, and we’ll photograph the heck out of you guys.

Eat the cake, pop the champagne, and celebrate your marriage! Yay!!!


Best Places to Elope in California

THE BEST OF THE BEST – OUR TOP PICKS FOR MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO ELOPE IN CALIFORNIA

1. Yosemite National Park

2. Big Sur

3. Death Valley National Park

4. San Francisco / Marin Headlands

5. Redwood National Park & State Parks

6. Joshua Tree National Park & Palm Springs

7. Point Reyes National Seashore

8. Mendocino

9. Lake Tahoe


YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK ELOPEMENT

Why Elope in Yosemite National Park

There is a reason Yosemite National Park is one of the most highly visited national parks in the U.S. This park is filled with amazing views from towering granite cliffs to cascading waterfalls to ancient giant sequoias.

Best Places to Elope Around Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park has designated 11 locations for wedding ceremonies within the park, but a few of our favorites are Glacier Point, Taft Point, Tunnel View, and El Capitan Meadow. These locations not only allow you to see the park from all different sides, but they also provide a great mix of easily accessible elopement locations as well as some more adventurous locations so no matter what your needs are, there is a place for you!

Best Time of Year to Elope at Yosemite National Park

There is truly no bad time of year to visit Yosemite, but depending on what time of year you visit will determine your experience. We always recommend couples elope during shoulder season as you will not only experience beautiful weather, but you’ll also be able to avoid the crowds.

It’s also important to note that the roads to popular locations like Glacier Point and Taft Point close annually during the winter months (generally November – April) due to the snow so keep this in mind when planning a winter elopement in Yosemite.

  • Spring: If you are dreaming of a waterfall elopement, then Spring is the perfect time to visit. The snow has recently melted causing the waterfalls to be full and dramatic and the fields are filled with wildflowers. Does anything sound more dreamy?
  • Summer: Summer is peak season at Yosemite National Park so although the park will be more crowded, all the roads will be open. If you choose to elope during the summer months, we will work with you to plan your elopement to avoid the crowds as much as possible.
  • Fall: The summer heat is finally starting to fade around this time and the leaves are changing resulting in the most stunning colors throughout the park. Keep in mind that the roads begin to close in November, but an elopement in October will give you the best of both worlds.
  • Winter: This is one of the most private times in the park and if you’re looking for a valley elopement, there is truly no better time than the winter months!

Important Information You Should Know About Eloping at Yosemite National Park

There is only one road that winds through Yosemite National Park, so be prepared for it to take some time to navigate through the park. Also, if you are staying outside Yosemite, it can take 1-1.5 hours to get into the park depending on where you are staying. We will be sure to build in plenty of buffer time into your wedding day timeline as well.

Yosemite National Park Wedding and Elopement Permits

For weddings and elopements in Yosemite National Park, you will need a special use park permit. There is also an entrance fee to enter the park. Information regarding park permits and fees can change, so please check the national park website for the most up-to-date information. If all this seems like a lot of information, don’t worry. At Henry Tieu Photography we help couples with permits during the planning process.

Check out our Yosemite Elopement Guide for more information on how to plan a Yosemite elopement

See more beautiful elopements at Yosemite National Park


BIG SUR ELOPEMENT

Why Elope in Big Sur

One of the things we love most about Big Sur is that the views here are endless and so versatile. On one side of Highway 1 are lush green mountains and on the other side, there are beautiful wildflowers covering the rugged coastal cliffs, not to mention all the beautiful beaches scattered throughout this 71-mile stretch.

Best Places to Elope Around Big Sur

Soberanes Point Trail, Garrapata Bluff Trail and Beach, China Lookout, and Pfeiffer Beach are just a few of our favorite Big Sur elopement locations.

Best Time of Year to Elope at Big Sur

Our favorite months to visit the California coast are between April and November. Late summer to early fall is known to be some of the best months to visit due to the dry, clear weather while springtime brings an abundance of wildflowers for your adventure session in the Big Sur region.

Important Information You Should Know About Eloping at Big Sur

There is very limited cell phone reception throughout Big Sur, so it’s best to plan your route and coordinate your elopement details in advance.

Big Sur Wedding and Elopement Permits

Big Sur consists of two types of land – public and private. While you don’t need a permit if you are eloping on private land, you will need a special events permit if you are eloping on Big Sur public lands. Depending on the location, there may be an entrance fee as well. For more information contact the Wedding Special Event Coordinator for the public land area you wish to get a permit for.

Check out our Big Sur Elopement Guide for more information on how to plan a Big Sur elopement

See more adventure elopements at Big Sur


DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK ELOPEMENT

Why Elope in Death Valley National Park

While it’s true that Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the world, it is also home to some of the best stargazing and the most dramatic mountains and sand dunes we’ve ever seen!

Best Places to Elope Around Death Valley National Park

Whether you visit the lowest point at Badwater, the highest point at Telescope Peak, or just want to drive the 9-mile loop through Artist’s Drive to see the Rainbow Rocks, there is so much to see at Death Valley National Park.

Best Time of Year to Elope at Death Valley National Park

Because of the extreme desert temperatures, the best time to visit Death Valley is between the months of October and May. During these months the days are mild and in springtime, the valley becomes filled with wildflowers creating a stunning desert oasis.

Important Information You Should Know About Eloping at Death Valley National Park

We’re not joking when we say that Death Valley National Park can get HOT! Be prepared by bringing plenty of water and supplies, and expect a fair amount of driving as this park is very remote.

Death Valley National Park Wedding and Elopement Permits

For weddings and elopements in Death Valley National Park, you will want to check the National Park website for the most up-to-date information regarding fees and permits. All visitors will also need an entrance pass to enter the park. If all this seems like a lot of information, don’t worry. At Henry Tieu Photography we help couples with permits during the planning process.

See more from this gorgeous desert elopement at Death Valley National Park


SAN FRANCISCO & MARIN HEADLANDS ELOPEMENT

Why Elope in San Francisco / Bay Area

Just 20-30 minutes from the city, you can find sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge surrounded by dramatic coastlines giving you an elopement location that is both close to the city and provides epic views!

Best Places to Elope Around San Francisco / Bay Area

Marin Headlands is one of our favorite foggy, moody overlooks of the Golden Gate Bridge. Muir Woods will give you a redwood forest elopement experience without venturing too far out of the city, while Half Moon Bay will give you an iconic California coastal experience.

Best Time of Year to Elope in San Francisco / Bay Area

Weather in the Bay Area is mild and fairly consistent year-round, though Spring and Fall are an ideal time to visit if you are trying to avoid the summer crowd.

Important Information You Should Know About Eloping at San Francisco / Bay Area

San Francisco experiences quite a bit of wind and fog year-round, but don’t worry, we are skilled in shooting in all kinds of weather and will help you be prepared for any type of weather that we might experience.

San Francisco / Bay Area Wedding and Elopement Permits

For weddings and elopements in San Francisco / Bay Area, information regarding permits can vary from place to place so you will want to check the area or park’s website where you are planning to elope for the most up-to-date information regarding fees and permits. If all this seems like a lot of information, don’t worry. At Henry Tieu Photography we help couples with permits during the planning process.

See more from this California micro wedding at Sequoia Retreat Center


REDWOOD NATIONAL & STATE PARKS ELOPEMENT

Why Elope in Redwood National & State Parks

Home to some of the largest trees in the world, the Redwoods is definitely not a location you want to miss! With just shy of 140,000 acres, this area is filled with miles and miles of redwood trees, coastal views, and dense fern-filled forests, perfect for your forest elopement!

Best Places to Elope Around Redwood National & State Parks

The Redwoods is actually made up of 4 different national and state parks: Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. These parks are filled with a variety of groves, coastal areas, amphitheaters, and overlooks so it really depends on what you dream of for your elopement! We have a long list of locations that we can’t wait to share with you!

Best Time of Year to Elope at Redwood National & State Parks

During the summer months, you will experience the best weather in the Redwoods but the parks also tend to be more crowded during these months as well. Though you might experience more rainy days (hey, you won’t hear us complaining), Spring and Fall usually have fewer crowds and slightly cooler temperatures making this an ideal time to visit!

Important Information You Should Know About Eloping at Redwood National & State Parks

The Redwoods are a large group of parks spanning thousands of acres so you may not be able to cover everything in one trip. Instead, choose a few ideal locations that you can fully experience. Cell phone service may also be spotty, so it’s best to be prepared and create a plan or itinerary ahead of time.

Redwood National & State Parks Wedding and Elopement Permits

For weddings and elopements in Redwood National & State Parks, you will need a special use park permit to get married within the park. Depending on where you go there may also be an additional day-use fee to access the parks. Please note that information regarding park permits and fees can change, so always check the national park website for the most up-to-date information and contact information. If all this seems like a lot of information, don’t worry. At Henry Tieu Photography, we help couples with permits during the planning process.

See more from this Northern California redwoods elopement

See more adventure elopements in the redwoods


JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK & PALM SPRINGS ELOPEMENT

Why Elope in Joshua Tree National Park / Palm Springs

Located in the Mojave Desert, Joshua Tree is filled with a variety of unique plants and animals. This southern California park is a beautiful and popular place for desert elopements and is home to some of the dreamiest sunrises and sunsets we’ve ever seen!

Best Places to Elope Around Joshua Tree National Park / Palm Springs

Some of our favorite locations within Joshua Tree are Hidden Valley Picnic Area (except March-May), Quail Springs Picnic Area (except March-May), Cap Rock, Rattlesnake Picnic Area, Live Oak, Split Rock, Turkey Flats, Porcupine Wash.

If you are looking to elope in Palm Springs, there are some cute hotels and AirBnBs that not only serve as your lodging / getting ready location but also your ceremony location!

Best Time of Year to Elope at Joshua Tree National Park / Palm Springs

Summertime can get very hot in Joshua Tree and there isn’t much shelter from the open sun in the park so we recommend visiting this park during the Spring, Fall, or Winter months for cooler temperatures. Because Palm Desert is a destination location for popular concerts like Coachella, also keep in mind that this area becomes quite popular during concert months, so it’s best to avoid planning your elopement during this time if at all possible.

Important Information You Should Know About Eloping at Joshua Tree National Park / Palm Springs

Be sure to bring plenty of water with you to your Joshua Tree elopement, and keep in mind that early morning/late evening temperatures can get very cold, so it’s best to be prepared with extra layers.

Joshua Tree National Park / Palm Springs Wedding and Elopement Permits

For weddings and elopements in Joshua Tree National Park / Palm Springs, you will need a special use park permit if you are getting married within Joshua Tree. There is also a photographer permit that is required as well as an entrance fee to enter the park. Information regarding park permits and fees can change, so please check the national park website for the most up-to-date information and contact information. If all this seems like a lot of information, don’t worry. At Henry Tieu Photography, we help couples with permits during the planning process.

See more from this adventure engagement session at Joshua Tree National Park

See more adventure elopements at Joshua Tree National Park


POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE ELOPEMENT

Why Elope in Point Reyes National Seashore

One hour north of San Francisco lies the beautiful coastal region of Point Reyes National Seashore. This peninsula is filled with bays and cliffs and is the perfect seaside retreat and California elopement location.

Best Places to Elope Around Point Reyes National Seashore

Outside the Point Reyes Seashore Overlook area are some other beautiful elopement locations such as Alamere Falls, Cypress Tree Tunnel, Chimney Rock Trail, Tomales Point Trail, and Wildcat Beach.

Best Time of Year to Elope at Point Reyes National Seashore

If you dream of being surrounded by wildflowers overlooking the coast, then April – May is the perfect time to elope at Point Reyes National Seashore.

Important Information You Should Know About Eloping at Point Reyes National Seashore

This area can get quite windy and has limited cell service, so be prepared with extra layers as well as a plan for getting around the park.

Point Reyes National Seashore Wedding and Elopement Permits

For weddings and elopements in Point Reyes National Seashore, you will need a special use park permit to get married within the park. Please note that information regarding park permits and fees can change, so always check the national park website for the most up-to-date information and contact information. If all this seems like a lot of information, don’t worry. At Henry Tieu Photography, we help couples with permits during the planning process.

See more from this windy Point Reyes engagement session


MENDOCINO ELOPEMENT

Why Elope in Mendocino

If you know us, you know we love a moody beach with cliffs, and the Mendocino area is one of the best moody beach areas in California. Located in Northern California, the Mendocino coast is secluded and beautiful and has a variety of hiking trails, fields, sea arches, and cliffs making it the perfect beach elopement location for your California elopement.

Best Places to Elope Around Mendocino

If you’re looking for beach AND forest vibes, check out Cypress Grove in Mendocino Headlands State Park. Russian Gulch State Park offers canyon views with rocky coasts, redwoods, and even a waterfall, while Big River Beach, Glass Beach, and Seaside Beach each offer their own unique beach views.

Best Time of Year to Elope in Mendocino

Temperatures in Mendocino remain cool and mild year-round so any time of year will be good to visit. Springtime provides a dreamy view of the coast surrounded by wildflower fields, while winter brings the opportunity to watch the gray whales migrate.

Important Information You Should Know About Eloping in Mendocino

Pack layers of clothing to accommodate the fluctuating weather, and be sure to wear comfortable shoes.

Mendocino Wedding and Elopement Permits

Depending on where you choose to get married in Mendocino, you may need an additional permit especially if you are getting married within a state park. Please note that information regarding park permits and fees can change, so always check the state park website for the most up-to-date information and contact information. If all this seems like a lot of information, don’t worry. At Henry Tieu Photography, we help couples with permits during the planning process.


LAKE TAHOE ELOPEMENT

Why Elope at Lake Tahoe

Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Lake Tahoe is the biggest alpine lake in North America and is filled with evergreen forests, snow-capped mountains, and endless lake views making it one of the most peaceful and beautiful places to elope in California.

Best Places to Elope Around Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a large lake that provides different experiences based on which side of the lake (North or South) you choose to elope. The lake also spans two states (California and Nevada), so we are not kidding when we say this lake is huge! The north and west sides of the lake tend to be more secluded while the south side is more popularized and caters to tourists. Trip to the casino, anyone? 🙂

NORTH / WEST

  • Sugar Pine Point State Park (CA)
  • High Camp at Squaw Valley (CA)
  • Sand Harbor (NV)
  • Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park (NV)

SOUTH

  • Emerald Bay State Park lookout (CA)
  • D.L. Bliss State Park (CA)

Best Time of Year to Elope at Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is a beautiful location that is available year-round so it really depends on the type of scenery you envision for your elopement. If you are looking for a snowy mountain elopement, then winter is a perfect time and you can even enjoy activities like skiing/snowboarding. Summertime will give you all the best summer activities like lounging on the beach or paddle-boarding, while Fall will give you a stunning backdrop with beautiful colors.

Important Information You Should Know About Eloping at Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is so large that it is split into two sections – North and South. But not only that. This lake also straddles two states, California and Nevada, so keep in mind which state you will be in when applying for your marriage license.

Lake Tahoe Wedding and Elopement Permits

Lake Tahoe straddles both California and Nevada, so depending on the location you choose, you will need to obtain a marriage license for the state where you will actually elope. Please note that information regarding permits and fees can change, so check with the local county clerk for the most up-to-date information. You will also need a special use permit if your elopement is taking place on National Forest lands. If all this seems like a lot of information, don’t worry. At Henry Tieu Photography we help couples with permits during the planning process.


Best Time of Year to Elope in California

death valley national park desert elopement

While we’ve already touched a bit on the best times to elope in each location, the best time to elope in California really depends on what kind of beautiful landscapes and visions you have in mind as well as whether you are eloping in Northern California or Southern California.

  • September – December would give you a hint of that classic PNW mood that we love so much, especially if you are eloping in Northern California.
  • December – March would provide us with some snow in Northern California and if your elopement is taking place in the desert, be prepared for freezing temperatures at night.
  • April – June Two words…wildflower season! This is truly a magical time to elope in California since the melted snow gives way to lush wildflower meadows filled with the most gorgeous array of flowers.
  • July – August You guessed it! While these months are typically the hottest months of the year, elopements on the coast tend to be breezier and milder. Whichever way you go you’re sure to get lots of sunshine!

Rain, sun, fog, snow, what should we do?

  • Chances are the weather on your weather app won’t vary too much for your California elopement, but it’s always best to be prepared for all types of weather, especially when hiking in remote locations.
  • Whatever it is, we are skilled at photographing AND making sure you guys look beautiful in any weather condition. We’ve gotchu 🙂
  • If it rains, dance in the rain. If it’s sunny, feel the sun on your skin. If your cake fell over, play with it. If your dress got dirty, get it dirtier. Focus on what’s important, not the little things. And we will take care of the rest and make sure you look epic as heck.

Marriage License, Guests, Transportation, Accommodation, Pets, and EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW to elope in California:

Same sex couple eloped in Big Sur on a cliff with rugged rocks

Marriage License: How to Apply for a Marriage License to Elope in California

  • Per state law, you will need to apply for a marriage license before your elopement date. Licenses are available for immediate use but you can only apply for a license within 90 days of your elopement date.
  • If you are from California or if you arrive at least 1 day before your elopement date, you can visit any local office to pick up your marriage license. If you are from out of state and don’t have enough time to arrive early and wait, the BEST WAY IS TO APPLY ONLINE AND HAVE IT MAILED TO YOU.
  • More Information on your marriage license can be found HERE
  • You will also need an officiant and at least 1 witness. If you have family and/or friends who can be there for you, that’s amazing. If not, it’s ok. Oftentimes, we act as one of the witnesses, and we can also recommend a list of officiants for you.

Permits: How to Apply For a Wedding Permit in California

If you are eloping in a California national park/forest, chances are you will need a permit to get married. Each park has its own requirements, so once you have decided on a location, you will want to research the requirements for your chosen location. Typically though, here is what you might need when eloping in a national park:

1) Entrance Fee: You can choose to pay for a one-time visit or you can use your America The Beautiful Pass to enter the park

2) Permit to have a wedding inside the national park. You will need to fill out an application form and submit an application fee which can usually be done online.

Guests: Can We Invite Guests? How Many People Should We Have at Our California Elopement?

We’ve photographed elopements that consist of just the couple and we have also photographed intimate weddings where 150 family members and friends also came along with the couple. There are no rules when it comes to having your wedding day as you have envisioned it. If you want to read more on this topic, we have written a blog post on 6 Things To Consider Before Eloping.

In terms of legality and paperwork, you will need 1 adult who is 18 or older to sign as your witness. If you choose to not have guests, it’s ok. Oftentimes, we can act as a witness or we have a list of options for witnesses if needed for when we plan together.

Accommodation: The Best Places to Stay for Your Elopement in California

Where you decide to elope in California will help determine the best place to stay. Since these areas are quite spread hard, it’s hard to name the locations one by one here (feel free to check out each of our elopement guides for the national/state parks in California for more detailed information). However, two things we do want you to think about when renting an Airbnb for your elopement:

  1. We will be using this Airbnb for your getting-ready photos and potentially first look. If you do choose to have family and friends attending your elopement, you might use this space to host a cute backyard reception or picnic.
  2. When it comes to adventure elopements, it’s not uncommon to drive 1.5-2 hours to get from your Airbnb to your ceremony location so keep this in mind when planning your elopement timeline.

If all this feels like a lot of information, don’t worry! When we start planning your adventure elopement, we will provide recommendations and help narrow down places that are more relevant to your needs.

Pets: We Have a Dog or Two – Can We Bring Our Pets Along With Us to Our California Elopement?

If you are thinking about bringing your pets to Washington, follow the BARK acronym:

  • B: Bag your pet’s poop
  • A: Always wear a leash
  • R: Respect wildlife
  • K: Know where you can go: Not all trails are dog-friendly

While not all locations in California allow dogs, as a dog father of 3 fur babies, Henry knows how important it is to include your pets on your elopement day. This is why our job is more than just photographing your day; rather, by assisting you from day one with planning and finding the right resources for your elopement day, we can help make sure you guys can include everything that’s important to you.


Hire Your California Elopement Vendors

A common misconception about elopements is that it is just the couple and an officiant. While this is sometimes true, elopements can also take just as much planning as a small wedding.

While it’s not required to hire any particular vendors, oftentimes the couples we work with choose to work with a few vendors for their special day. Hiring high-quality vendors who can help you bring your vision to life will not only elevate your experience but also showcase your unique style, making your elopement day truly your own.

Below is a list of the most common vendors that you might want to consider for your California elopement or intimate wedding as well as links to a few vendors that we absolutely love!


Plan Your California Elopement Activities

Deaf couple signed in ASL during their elopement
Star photos and lantern elopement photos at yosemite at tunnel view

Eloping is all about creating a day filled with meaning and intention and one of the best ways to fill your elopement day with meaning is by incorporating activities that you love and that SCREAM YOU!!

Intentional activities allow you to spend intentional time together and therefore, create an intentional experience where you get to immerse yourselves into the day.

Activities can be as simple as getting ready together, hiking, or picnicking or it can also mean going offroading, taking a helicopter ride, or kayaking together.

We’ve written a blog post on Unique Elopement Ideas where we share some tips you can read to help you choose activities for your California elopement, but one of the most important things we tell couples is that you don’t have to pick activities that you think an elopement “should have”. Your activities should reflect you so if hiking isn’t you, you don’t have to hike. If you’re afraid of heights, you don’t have to do a cliffside picnic.

Elopement activities can mean trying something you’ve never done before or revisiting a favorite activity that you both love! This is the time to get creative and dream big! There isn’t a right or a wrong way to elope. Elopement means freedom so don’t feel like you have to do something just because other couples have done it.

WHAT IS “LEAVE NO TRACE” AND WHY SHOULD WE CARE ABOUT IT?

As experts in adventure elopement photography, we care a whole lot about “Leave No Trace”, which is where we go on adventures for photos but also make sure we leave things the way they are by doing our parts to preserve the beauty of nature. Here are something we do and expect our couples to do (not limiting to):

  • Stay on trails
  • Not climbing over fences, roped-off areas, or places with visible signs of “Do Not Trespass”
  • No meadow stomping
  • No confetti inside national parks or any other places with fragile plants, flowers, and wildlife (it doesn’t matter if they are bio-degradable or not): Each of these beautiful places has its own living organisms, plants, animals, etc… By us leaving things behind, we can harm these living organisms. Bio-degradable confetti takes a while to degrade and might need rain or water to speed up that process. In the meantime, other animals might still be able to ingest them. If you are thinking about confetti, we can do so at your cabin/Airbnb (if allowed)

Sample California Elopement Timelines

Bride and groom dance on the beach at sunset during their California elopement
Bride and groom dance under string lights during their forest elopement in California

The best thing about planning your California elopement timeline is that we can customize it completely to whatever you envision for your day.

Want to have a reception meal before your ceremony? We can do that! Want to wake up early for a sunrise first look and then go hiking for adventure photos at sunset? Anything is possible!

Below are a few sample timelines to give you an idea of what’s possible for your California elopement.

Half Day Elopement

Half Day elopements are one of the most common elopement options. This timeline includes 6 hours of coverage and allows us to experience a beautiful location at either sunrise or sunset.

  • 2:00 pm: Photographer arrives at cabin for getting ready and detail moments
  • 3:00 pm: First look & travel to ceremony location
  • 3:30 pm: Intimate vow exchange ceremony
  • 4:00 pm: Sunset adventure portraits / Activity
  • 7:00 pm: Travel back to cabin
  • 7:30 pm: Reception, eating, dancing, celebrating
  • 8:00 pm: End of a beautiful day. Start of a whole new beginning!

Full-Day Elopement

A full-day elopement is great for couples who want to experience multiple locations or include lots of activities into their day. It’s also a great option for elopements or intimate weddings with guests as you will need more time for everyone to get to each location.

  • 10:00 am: Photographer arrives at cabin for getting ready and detail moments
  • 11:30 pm: First look & travel to ceremony location
  • 1:30 pm: Ceremony
  • 2:00 pm: Formal portraits with family and friends
  • 3:00 pm: Reception, eating, dancing, celebrating
  • 3:30 pm: Travel/Driving/Hiking
  • 5:30 pm: Private vow exchange
  • 6:00 pm: Sunset adventure portraits and private first dance
  • 8:00 pm: End of a beautiful day. Start of a whole new beginning!

Two-Day Elopement

When you want to get the best light for both sunrise and sunset, or there are so many locations you want to try, or you have family and friends traveling to be there for your special day, then a two-day elopement is often the best fit. There are so many ways a two-day elopement can look and it all comes down to what you want!

Day 1: Intimate Wedding with guests

  • 12:30 pm: Photographer arrives at cabin for getting ready and detail moments
  • 2:00 pm: First look & travel to ceremony location
  • 3:30 pm: Intimate vow exchange ceremony
  • 4:30 pm: Formal portraits with family and friends 
  • 5:30 pm: Travel back to cabin
  • 6:30 pm: Reception, eating, dancing, celebrating
  • 8:00 pm: End of Day 1

Day 2: Private Adventure Elopement Portraits

  • 2:30 pm: Getting ready together + cute indoor portraits
  • 4:00 pm: Travel/Driving/Hiking
  • 6:00 pm: Private vow exchange
  • 6:30 pm: Sunset adventure portraits and private first dance
  • 8:30 pm: End of a beautiful day. Start of a whole new beginning!

California Elopement Packages

– Photograph by Henry or Sergio

– Explore anywhere in California. From redwood forests to sandy beaches waterfalls and sprawling deserts, this beautiful state has it all.

– Coverage from 4 hours to Full Day

– A personalized elopement experience with unlimited guides and resources as promised above (click here to see everything that is included)

– All your breath-taking photos in a secure & private online gallery

– Travel fees included for anywhere in California

Starting at $6,900 for Northern California and $7,900 for anywhere else in California


California Elopement FAQs

From all the beautiful national parks to all the beaches, forests, and deserts around the state, California would 100% have something that fits your vision for your elopements. From alpine lakes to wildflower fields to rugged beaches to moody forests to dramatic coastlines and deserts California has it all!

On average elopements cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 though you can legally get married for as little as $50 – $200. Depending on what county you decide to elope in California will determine the legal cost of your elopement. Typically, the application fee in California is around $70 but it is best to call the County Auditor’s office to verify and confirm what type of payment is accepted. For additional information, check out our blog post “How Much Does It Cost To Elope?” to learn more about the costs of elopements as well as try out our handy elopement calculator tool. And remember, however much money you spend on your wedding/elopement day doesn’t say anything about who you are or what your values are.

Yes! Your officiant can be from any state within the US as long as the ceremony takes place in California.

One witness – at least 12 years old or older – must be present at the ceremony. Many times, if our couples do not have any guests present, we act as one of the witnesses for them.

Per state law, there is no waiting period for obtaining your marriage license but you can only apply for a license within 90 days of your elopement date. If you are getting married in a National or State park a Special Use permit may be required as well as a parking permit. We will be there every step of the way to help make sure you have all the information you need for your elopement day.

The best time to elope in California is when you want to! In all seriousness, depending on the location you choose there is no bad time to elope in California though in many places it can be good to avoid the summer months due to extreme heat or crowds.

That’s like asking us to pick our favorite fur-baby!!! In all reality, there really is no bad location to elope in California as this state has it all, from alpine lakes, wildflower fields, rugged beaches, moody forests, dramatic coastlines, and deserts! California is known for its coasts and beaches, but that’s not all it has to offer. So if you’re having trouble narrowing down a location, contact us and we can help find the perfect location for you!


As you can see there are so, so many reasons to elope in California. We hope you found this blog post helpful and if you are ready to get started planning your California adventure elopement, then head on over to our contact page. We can’t wait to get started!

Ready to elope? Need our help in finding the most perfect location for you? Need more clarification?


Henry Tieu & Sergio - Elopement Photographers

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